It's not easy to upstage yourself after six Super Bowl wins, but Tom Brady definitely managed to do that during the 2020 season and that's because not only did he end up winning his seventh Lombardi Trophy, but he did it in a year where he played the entire season with a torn MCL.
The man won a Super Bowl playing on one leg!
Although this will look legendary on Brady's résumé, it's not necessarily a good thing for the Buccaneers that this injury news leaked out on Thursday and that's because it could put them in hot water with the NFL.
The problem for the Buccaneers is that if Brady played the entire season with an MCL tear, then he should have been listed on the team's injury report each week during the season. The NFL has a specific rule that covers this exact situation and the rule is pretty clear.
From the league's handbook:
"All players who have reportable injuries must be listed on the practice report, even if the player takes all the reps in practice, and even if the team is certain that he will play in the upcoming game. This is especially true of key players."
The italicized portion of the above quote is literally UNDERLINED in the league's operations manual. The fact that the NFL also mentions specifically that all "key" players should be on the report is something that will make this difficult for the Buccaneers to argue their way out of.
If a team violates the NFL's policy on reporting injuries, the commissioner has the power to hand down multiple different punishments, including the suspension of anyone involved.
"A violation of the policy may result in Commissioner discipline, which may include a fine on the involved club, fines or suspensions of involved individuals, as well as the possible forfeiture of draft choices by the involved club," the league's rulebook states.
Imagine how crazy things would get if Roger Goodell decided to suspend Brady for the second time in five years.
When asked if the Buccaneers would be punished over the Brady situation, the NFL gave a "no comment" to Pro Football Talk. The "no comment" doesn't mean the Buccaneers won't be punished. What it most likely means is that the NFL is going to look into the situation. For the Buccaneers, it's going to be nearly impossible to deny that Brady played injured, especially because he admitted it last month.
Brady was actually asked about his knee injury during minicamp in June and although he never admitted how serious it was, he did admit that it had been bothering him since April 2020.
"It was an injury I dealt with really since last April, May," Brady said. "I knew I'd have to do something at the end of the [2020 season], and happy I did it. It was probably something that certainly needed to be done and there was a great outcome, so I'm very happy about that. I feel I'll be able to do some different things this year than I was able to do last year."
In a more recent situation, the Steelers were fined $100,000 in 2019 -- $75,000 for the team and $25,000 for Mike Tomlin -- for not accurately listing Ben Roethlisberger on their Week 2 injury report. Big Ben missed a practice leading up to the game with an elbow injury, but the Steelers never listed the injury. Instead, they listed his absence as a veteran rest day. The NFL found out about the injury after Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph noted that Roethlisberger was suffering elbow pain in the lead up to Pittsburgh's Week 2 game against Seattle. Big Ben ended up suffering an elbow injury in the game that caused him to miss the rest of the season.
The Roethlisberger situation only involved one week of practice reports and the Steelers still got hit with a major fine, so it wouldn't be surprising if Tampa Bay gets hit with something similar or possibly even bigger, since the Buccaneers went an entire year without acknowledging Brady's injury on their practice reports.
The NFL doesn't have a long history of punishing teams for practice report violations, but like Favre and Big Ben, this is such a high-profile case that the league might end up deciding to make an example of the Buccaneers.